Skip to main content

"The Martian" is the Ultimate PBL Adventure

"You do the math. You solve a problem. Then you solve the next. If you solve enough of them you can come home." - Matt Damon in "The Martian"

Astronaut, Mark Watney's crew mistakenly leaves him for dead on Mars. His survival is put to the ultimate test in a series of challenges to overcome with math, science, creativity, and perseverance. My first viewing of The Martian was based purely on the film's science fiction entertainment value. However, after reading Amanda Dykes's inspiring post, "Are You Teaching Your Students to be Martians?", I decided to see this captivating movie again, this time, through my educator's lens.



"In the face of overwhelming odds, I have only one option: I am going to have to science the shit out of this."  - Matt Damon in "The Martian"


Watney, a botanist, needs to create a food supply. He needs to use available technology to create a means of communication, and he needs to engineer transportation in order to have any hope of getting rescued. He needs to survive alone for as long as four years in the most inhospitable of environments. As many of us look to transform our classrooms and schools into more innovative learning spaces, we can take a few cues from this scientist's survival in a distant learning place. The following education themes are apparent and enjoyable in this film; problem-based learning, authentic assessment, STEM education, makerspaces, growth mindset, and valuing relationships over content.

After peeling away the entertainment aspects of this terrific movie, I wonder how much of this fictitious expedition to Mars is plausible? After reading several articles focused on this question, I was happy to learn most of Watney's problems, and solutions, are factually accurate. This science and attention to authenticity is driving me to read Andy Weir's interesting book, The Martian.

With the entertainment and science fiction removed, I am left wondering about Mark Watney's educational experiences. How did he develop such resourcefulness and resolve? What practice did he experience with problem-solving? What impact did Watney's education have on his survival? How can our current system of education be transformed to, in the words of Amanda Dykes, produce more Martians?

Related Reading




Behind the Science of The Martian - Astronomy Magazine, Eric Betz




Comments

Joy Kirr said…
I love it, Bob! THE MARTIAN is the next adult book on my "to read" list. I have it on reserve at the EGPL! ;)

Popular posts from this blog

Self-Directed vs. Self-Determined Learning; What's the Difference?

"We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves." - Stephen Downes In this age of abundance of information, shifting classroom pedagogy isn't nearly enough to make learning in school more relevant and authentic for the learner. Self-directed learning ( andragogy ), and self-determined learning ( heutagogy ) are the ideals necessary in making students " future ready " to live and learn in a web-connected world. While original research applied these concepts to mature learners, it has become apparent that even young children have an abundant capacity for recognizing and directing their learning. Anyone who has observed toddlers learning how to walk and talk understand the motivation and skill development that quickly develops during these processes. Considered by some to be on a learning continuum, self-directed learning, and self-determined

Board Games in the School Library: 3 Reasons Why It's a Winning Play

"Play is the highest form of research."  - Albert Einstein “Play is the work of the child.”  – Maria Montessori In our recently remodeled school media center, we have a space dedicated to active engagement in fun learning activities. Part maker space, part literacy lounge, board games are being incorporated to promote a culture of joyful learning. Whether it's a game of Rummy , Yahtzee , or Scrabble , family game night serves as a communication elixir and solidifies our domestic climate of togetherness. Shouldn't similar opportunities for interaction, challenge, and fun exist somewhere in our schools? Broken families, cultural fragmentation, and poverty are impacting opportunities for children to play. As we unpacked and tagged our new media center games, I was more disappointed than shocked by the number of students who had never played Monopoly , Boggle , or Sorry . One skeptical teacher commented, "Oh great, now we're letting students pl

Grammarly Writing Hacks for Better Blogging

Writing is learning. It's taken me about thirty years to realize the metacognitive power of written expression, the same amount of time it took for me to recognize that my writing skills suck. Apparently, time in composition class was spent daydreaming and making silly faces at girls. Today, each post is an exercise of will power, unlearning and relearning prepositional phrases, comma usage, and when to use the ever-popular semicolon. Two hundred posts into my blogging adventure I've picked up a few tricks that add efficiency to my writing, things that make me appear smarter than I really am. Freelance writer, Jennie Cromie , writing for ProBlogger.net , identifies five ways blogging can make you a better writer . Discover your voice Build social connections Acquire valuable feedback Become self-disciplined Write faster and more efficiently Writing with intent to learn is the mindset to lead with. Using the right tools permits scatterbrains like me to focu